Updated: Jan 2, 2021
I have the habit of mentally reviewing my year as I approach midnight on every December 31st. But, this year is different. This year is 2020. Normally, I can sit down silently and quietly reflect on the good and the bad. Contemplate what I’ve enjoyed, learned and still need to work on. Traditionally, I can complete this task in calm reflection over a period of minutes. But, this year is different. This year is 2020. So, I had no choice but to really break this down in writing so my brain could even process this annual exercise of self reflection.
What I Enjoyed
Becoming a CEO during a pandemic
I have dreamed of officially taking over my family’s business since I was 14 years old. I could have never imagined that the year I would become CEO would be the same year that the world was thrust into a pandemic that altered our world forever. The ramifications of which are still not entirely clear. 2020 was filled with uncertainty, social unrest, illness and death. It continues to shudder our economy and negatively impact every industry, especially Hospitality and Tourism which is all I’ve ever known and loved. I was faced with making decisions terminating a majority of our staff, creating entirely new systems to attempt to reach our audience, and maintain a facility that keeps everyone protected and safe. It was daunting, and at times seemed completely impossible. And yet, I listed this endeavor in the ‘What I Enjoyed’ category...and you’re asking, “Why, Christina, why?!” The simple answer is because we survived it. There were many difficult choices, but I believe we are a stronger organization. Our team now consists of more staff than ever before with the shared knowledge that if we could survive this year that means we can survive anything.
My relationship with my parents
I could not have done any of this without my folks. I hate using the word lucky. But man am I lucky to have these two gems. We faced every crazy adversity this year as a family. We are an unshakable force with a compass built from love and the clarity of a unified vision. Communication is key as we constantly learn and grow together. We know and live by a few simple truths that continue to guide us as a family and as a business. Ultimately, it is to maintain stability so that we can continue to create a benefit for everyone around us. So, we worked constantly to make delicate minute by minute decisions that we hoped would allow us to thrive while also helping the most people we could along the way.
Creating ways for my community to thrive under difficult circumstances
A year without special events, art shows, and festivals was strange and sad. Our downtown community is built on being able to connect with one another through these kinds of engagement whether they are a volunteer, vendor, or patron. Without these things, we lost part of what we love about where we live and missed the connection with our extended friends that had become family. Luckily, through tireless efforts with other leaders in our town we were able to find safe ways to continue to support the businesses that we love through art and more. We launched our first ever city wide mural project as well as having a successful Small Business Saturday. I’m so proud of our new Sanford Mainstreet organization and all the people who made those events possible. We will continue to make Sanford a destination and something we are proud to call our home.
What I’ve Learned
Admitting I’m not okay
Hey, guess what? I am not okay. And, that’s okay. I am a strong person who is used to responsibility and people relying on me in many facets of my life. The burden of always running at that level is hard, and the person who puts the most pressure on me more than anyone else is…me. So, when I am not able to be at my best the only person getting mad at me is me. My colleagues and friends are always supportive and understanding. Yet, I can’t seem to extend that courtesy to myself. It was a hard lesson to learn this year. I needed to say out loud to myself that I was broken and I needed mending. Once I could honestly admit it to myself, it got better and I could start healing.
Make Time for your health or you’ll be forced to make time for your illness
I heard this phrase before, but it really rang true this year. Everyone’s situation is different when it comes to personal health, both physical and mental. But the bottom line is you have to listen to your body and take the time to treat yourself right. There is literally nothing more important. You may say your family or ambition is ranked higher, but if you are not taking care of yourself then those people and goals will continue on in life grieving your absence. I tend to think of riding in an airplane. We all know that you have to put on your oxygen mask before assisting those around you. Take care of yourself like its life or death...because it is.
Focus on things you can control
I’ve learned this, but I have not mastered it. It will take constant practice probably every day for forever. This year gave me plenty of occasions to hone my skills. There were so many things happening to my life, my business, and my community that I had absolutely no control over. It makes you feel helpless and insignificant when you dwell on all the things you can’t control, so why do we do that constantly? Focus on things you can control. Say it again. Focus on things you can control. No matter how small those actions may seem, do them. Make small changes for yourself and others around you. Effect Change immediately in your surroundings. You can do that.
What I’m Working On
It just hurts. When I attempt to be Mindful and assess my feelings on this subject, the label that immediately flashes before my thoughts is FAILURE. That feeling is then furthered supported by a mixed bag of hurt and sympathy, anger and elation, remorse and relief, doubt and certainty. I wish I had more answers on how to make this better, but I really don’t. There is nothing anyone can say or do. It is a personal journey that just needs to follow its course. The only things that are helping are being honest with myself about it. But mostly, trying so hard not to be comparative to others and not dwelling in a future that is never meant to be. I am trying to map out these feelings into healthy grieving. But it just kind of sucks.
Patience & Compassion
I think these are two of the more powerful things I will be working on for a while. Such simple words that we learn and understand from a young age. Yet, so hard to actually practice. Not just towards others, but mostly toward ourselves. Why is that? Why can’t I have it now? Why do they deserve my kindness? I get so frustrated that the ‘default’ setting of our brains is to be impatient jerks. When someone is being impetuous and rude, our instinct is to be those things right back at them. Our initial inclination is not patience and compassion. We want to mirror that negative behavior back, because they don’t deserve those aspects of our humanity. But that's not the intent of those words. The whole point of patience and compassion is to treat adversity with the same respect as success. It is a constant effort to really understand the meaning of those words and live by them.
Warning, I’m going to get a little hokey here in the end. To be honest, I never really liked poetry in my youth. I think that I just didn’t look hard enough to find an author I liked. Through my eventual pursuit I came across Rudyard Kipling. The poem ‘If’ was written in 1895. It surprises me that an author from the Victorian era can still be so incredibly relevant today. But, it is a reminder that the problems we face as human beings are not new. The circumstances may have changed but at the core, we are the same. So, thank you for reading my year in review and I will leave you with my favorite verse that rattles around in my brain as a reminder to continue with patience and compassion no matter what life keeps throwing at me.
If you can meet Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same